nytheatre.com review by Lynn Berg
November 10, 2010
Milk Can Theatre Company's Malfi, Inc. totally reminds me of that movie Cruel Intentions. You know, where Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe look totes fab playing the Glenn Close and John Malkovich parts and everyone has a trust fund except for poor, cute Reese Witherspoon? Just like that movie, Malfi, Inc. is based on an old play and it's set in modern times where they don't talk all thee and thou. They even text! Anyways, if you like that movie you might totally be into Malfi, Inc., IMHO.
Seriously though, Malfi, Inc. works when it's taken and played at the cheesy, gleeful party level of its first scene. But, unlike Cruel Intentions, the stakes of Malfi, Inc., involve an arms deal with Saudi Arabia, a United States Senate seat, and the control of an international munitions company. Those stakes stretch the production's credibility. It might have been more suitable to take a lesson from that movie and numerous other cinematic adaptations of classics and set the sordid, nasty pleasures of The Duchess of Malfi in high school or college. "Malfi High" or "Malfi U." would have been more effective since that's the level where this play is the most fun.
Malfi, Inc. has a mind and something on it, though. The playwright, Bethany Larsen, shoots off some clever lines about Halliburton, the War in Iraq, the Saudi arms deal, and other hot topics. The play seems to be commenting on the moral bankruptcy and shallowness of America. The slyest wink of the production is having the mercenary Bosola resemble the infamous Abu Ghraib "specialist" Lynndie England. It's a sharp warning that one can hire such sociopaths to do one's dirty work, but be careful not to let them in the ballroom. But then, if you and everyone invited to your war profiteers' party is a shallow narcissist, what difference does it make?
The show has the benefit of a beautiful, young, and enthusiastic cast. Julie Fei-Fan Balzer's direction wisely keeps the scenes moving at a brisk pace. The costumes by Sarah Gosnell are stylish and sexy. And Ian Roettger choreographs some jarringly brutal stage violence that fulfills Webster's original disturbing mayhem.
Like its Jacobean predecessor, Malfi, Inc. shows beautiful people doing ugly things to each other. At that level, the play is a kicky pleasure. So do you want to go to the party at the Malfis' tonight? Their daddy died and left them the keys to the company. OMG I hope Giovanna and Antonio, like, hook up. They would be totes amazing together. Nothing bad better happen to them. That would be, like, tragic.